Chris Stratton vs. Jarrod Dyson. Eighth inning, Chase Field, Phoenix. San Francisco up 2-0 on Arizona with a runner on. A Mississippi baseball aficionado moment. Dyson, the McComb native and Southwest Mississippi Community College product, won the battle, lashing an RBI triple to center field, chasing Stratton from the game. But the Tupelo native and ex-Mississippi State star ultimately won the war. Though the Giants’ bullpen would later blow the save, the team won 4-3 in 10 innings Wednesday night on a Brandon Belt bomb. Stratton was fairly brilliant in his second straight quality start. He yielded just five hits, the one run, walked none and struck out eight. He trimmed his ERA to 2.22 over four 2018 starts (and 3.29 in 24 career games). The lanky right-hander appears to have secured a spot in the San Francisco rotation, which is currently missing three injured members. “He’s one of our guys,” manager Bruce Bochy told mlb.com. Meanwhile, the triple was a big knock for Dyson, who is batting just .200 in 12 games with his new team. P.S. Also worth noting from Wednesday: In Syracuse, N.Y., Ole Miss alum David Goforth pitched two perfect innings as part of a four-man combo no-hitter for the Chiefs against Indianapolis. Goforth has 1.17 ERA in four games for Washington’s Triple-A affiliate. … In Perkinston, No. 5 Jones County Junior College beat Mississippi Gulf Coast CC 4-2 and 14-9 to extend its win streak to 10 games. Trace Henry had a go-ahead hit in the ninth of Game 1 and Robbie Woody and Brandon Hale drove in three runs apiece in the second game for the Bobcats (29-7, 14-4 MACJC). First-place Pearl River (29-7, 15-3) swept Hinds on Wednesday to maintain a one-game lead.
The injury to Steven Souza may create an opportunity for McComb’s Jarrod Dyson to start in Arizona’s outfield. Souza hurt his shoulder on Wednesday; details about the extent of the injury, which appeared significant, could be announced today. Dyson, a free agent signee this off-season, was projected as the Diamondbacks’ fourth outfielder. The 33-year-old Southwest Mississippi Community College star, an excellent defender, can play any of the three positions. He has been used sparingly in the field this spring – batting .238 in eight games — but reportedly is fully recovered from hernia surgery last September. Despite missing most of the final month with Seattle, the lefty-hitting Dyson set career-bests for stolen bases (30), runs (56), homers (five) and RBIs (30) in 111 games. Over eight MLB seasons, the first seven in Kansas City, Dyson is batting .258 with 204 steals. P.S. Former Pearl River CC standout Zach Clark got an infield hit in his first MLB spring training at-bat on Wednesday. Clark, a 19th-round pick by Milwaukee in 2016, was brought over from the minor league camp and entered the game vs. Oakland in the seventh inning. He hit .225 with seven homers in A-ball in 2017.
Three members of the Mississippi Braves’ original opening day roster from 2005 are on MLB postseason teams this year. Catcher Brian McCann, the first M-Brave to get the big league ticket, is with Houston – along with fellow ex-M-Braves Charlie Morton, Evan Gattis and James Hoyt – heading into the American League Division Series battle with Boston. Right-hander Blaine Boyer, who was the second M-Brave to be promoted to Atlanta, works out of the Red Sox’s bullpen, as does Craig Kimbrel. Outfielder Gregor Blanco, who waited a little longer – until 2008 – than McCann and Boyer to make The Show, is a bench player for Arizona, which hosts Colorado in tonight’s National League wild card game. Blanco has had a journeyman career but has played in 37 postseason games and won two World Series rings – with San Francisco in 2012 and ’14. Released by the Giants after last season, Blanco signed with the Diamondbacks. In 90 games, the speedy left-handed hitter batted .246 with three homers, 13 RBIs, 43 runs and 15 steals. He is also a good defensive outfielder. His advice for his D-backs teammates, many of whom are making their first postseason appearance? “Have fun and play the game,” Blanco told sfgate.com. “Whatever happens, happens.” P.S. Several other former Jackson area Double-A connections are with teams who made the postseason, including ex-Jackson Mets shortstop Ron Gardenhire, now Arizona’s bench coach, and ex-JaxMets infielder Dave Magadan, the D’backs’ hitting coach. Former JaxMets pitcher Neil Allen is the pitching coach for Minnesota, which was eliminated Tuesday by the New York Yankees. M-Braves alum Chasen Shreve, a Las Vegas native who threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium, is a reliever for the Yanks. Dave Hudgens, a onetime Jackson Generals hitting coach, now fills that role for Houston. M-Braves products Alex Wood and Luis Avilan pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Jason Heyward and Tommy LaStella play for the Chicago Cubs. … Tuesday marked the end of an era in Tampa Bay with the unexpected departure – by mutual agreement? — of former Generals pitching coach Jim Hickey from the Rays’ staff. Hickey has been the Rays’ pitching coach for 11 years. He’ll have no trouble finding another job. Also on Tuesday, Seattle announced that ex-JaxMets shortstop Tim Bogar will not return as bench coach.
Former Vancleave High star Colin Bray, a birthday boy on Saturday, celebrated with a pair of home runs for Class A Visalia in the Arizona organization. Bray, a 23-year-old center fielder, has scuffled a bit this year at the high-A level. He told milb.com it has been a good test and he’ll be better for it. Considered a rising prospect, Bray now has a four-game hit streak that has lifted his average to .241, with three homers, 26 RBIs and 34 runs in 64 games. He is a .283 hitter over his four-year pro career. Arizona picked Bray in the sixth round out of an Alabama junior college in 2013. P.S. St. Louis has signed all three of its picks from Mississippi in this year’s draft. Mississippi State’s Dakota Hudson, drafted 34th overall as the first Magnolia State player to be called, signed for a cool $2 million, it was announced on Saturday. The Cardinals also signed Hudson’s teammate Austin Sexton (18th round) on Saturday and earlier in the week inked Walker Robbins (fifth round) from George County High. All three figure to debut in the rookie Gulf Coast League. … Last year’s top pick from the state, DeSoto Central product Austin Riley, is batting .256 with three homers at 26 RBIs for Rome, Atlanta’s low Class A club. The top pick from 2014, Blake Anderson out of West Lauderdale, made his 2016 debut on Saturday, going 0-for-4 for Batavia, a short-season Class A team in Miami’s system. Anderson batted .220 with two homers at Batavia in 2015.
Ex-Mississippi State standout Chad Girodo, in Toronto’s camp as a non-roster invitee, might have a legitimate chance to make the club out of spring training. “(H)e’s on the radar and you’re always looking for lefties who can get lefties out,” manager John Gibbons told mlb.com. Drafted in 2013, the 25-year-old Girodo advanced through three levels of the minors last season. He began the year in Class A Dunedin, moved to Double-A New Hampshire and then made a brief appearance with Triple-A Buffalo. He posted a combined 1.34 ERA while striking out 58 in 60 1/3 innings and also pitched well in the Arizona Fall League. He has not allowed a run in 1 2/3 innings this spring for a Blue Jays team that is a little thin in the bullpen. … Tyler Moore, another ex-Bulldogs star, hit his first home run on Wednesday for Washington. Coming off a 2015 season – his fourth in the big leagues — in which he batted .203 with six homers in 187 at-bats, Moore is just 2-for-16 this spring as he tries to win a job on the bench under new manager Dusty Baker. “It’s not an easy job at all and it’s sometimes very frustrating because you feel like you can contribute so much more than what you actually do,” Moore told federalbaseball.com about being a reserve. Moore is wearing No. 32 now, having given up his old No. 12 to Baker. That might be worth a few brownie points. … Though he isn’t expected to have an impact for Arizona this year, former Vancleave High star Colin Bray is certainly a player to keep an eye on. The switch-hitting outfielder, who got an at-bat in an MLB spring game on Tuesday, is rated the No. 24 prospect in the Diamondbacks’ organization, and the MLBPipeline report on him is fairly glowing: speed, defense, make-up. At Class A Kane County in 2015, the 6-foot-3, 197-pound Bray batted .308 with three homers, 52 RBIs and 27 steals. Bray, 22, a sixth-round pick out of Faulkner State (Ala.) Community College in 2013, could make it to Double-A Mobile in the Southern League this summer.
First impression of MGM Park in Biloxi: intimate. Listed seating capacity of the new ballpark is 5,000, and each one is relatively close to the field. (On the downside, the park offers very little cover from the rain or sun.) The power alley distances are marked as 350 feet, which would seem to be a hitter’s dream. But on this particular night, when the air was heavy from a pregame storm, none of the 23 hits mustered by the Shuckers and visiting Chattanooga Lookouts came close to leaving the yard. The stadium backdrop is unique. The Beau Rivage towers above the center-field wall and dominates the view. MGM owns the Beau, and Shuckers ads and paraphernalia are everywhere in the Casino & Hotel. Construction is ongoing at the park, which is obvious. Lots of orange barrels, cones and tape. An announced crowd of 4,482 turned out for this Friday night game despite a 1-hour, 41-minute rain delay. (Yes, there were postgame fireworks.) The product they’re seeing on the field is a good one. The parent Milwaukee Brewers stacked the Double-A club with prospects, and the Shuckers won the first-half title in the SL South despite playing mostly road games. (MGM Park opened June 6.) They lost on this particular night, 6-5, but had the winning run on second base in the ninth. Shortstop Orlando Arcia, who’ll be in the big leagues soon, went 1-for-3 with two RBIs, and center fielder Michael Reed shined on defense, throwing out two runners. One of Chattanooga’s stars was former Ole Miss player Stuart Turner, who had three of the team’s 14 hits. In sum: Nice park, good game, fun time. P.S. Continuing on a Coastal theme, former Vancleave High standout Colin Bray is on a tear at Class A Kane County in the Arizona system. The switch-hitting outfielder, in his third pro season, is batting .296 with 15 doubles, 30 RBIs and 15 steals. He won Midwest League player of the week honors for July 6-12. And ex-George County High star Justin Steele, a fifth-round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 2014, is 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA in five starts at short-season Class A Eugene.
Still think Billy Hamilton will win the National League Rookie of the Year award. But it has become a competitive race. Jacob DeGrom, David Peralta and perhaps even Yangervis Solarte may garner support from voters down the stretch. Former Taylorsville High star Hamilton, Cincinnati’s leadoff batter and center fielder, has 56 stolen bases. That’s his eye-grabbing number. He has also hit a surprising six home runs, scored 72 times and driven in 48 runs in 147 games. Plus, he’s played great defense. But a September swoon (.146) has pulled his batting average down to .256, and his on-base percentage is a weak .298. He also has been caught stealing 23 times. DeGrom has surged of late and has posted an 8-6 record with a 2.68 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 134 1/3 innings for the New York Mets. Playing in the Big Apple also helps the shaggy-haired right-hander. Peralta, an outfielder for Arizona, is batting .293 (.326 OBP) with seven homers, 34 RBIs, 38 runs and nine triples. And then there’s Solarte, San Diego’s third baseman, who is batting .263 with 10 homers, 48 RBIs and 53 runs. Hamilton may need to lean hard at the tape to pull this win out.